The People's Guide To Mexico

The Best of Mexico
The Pacific Coast
The Copper Canyon

Mexico's Pacific Coast

Flores de Las Peñas

by David "El Codo" Eidel

Published October 06

I awoke a few mornings ago to the sound of pounding surf in my ears and a pungent seashore odor in my nostrils. I relaxed, this was home and it was August and dawn was muted by billows of summer rain clouds. It seemed as though everything happens in moderation in the tropics -- the temperature was neither too hot nor too cold; unlike in more northerly latitudes the sun doesn't rise too early nor set too late during the summer; and pointless enthusiasm is tempered by balmy temperatures. “Moderation”, I repeated silently to myself as I drifted off again-- “That's the key to life around here, mod…”

Bam! Dah-VEED! BAM! “Abre la puerta (open the door)”. I instantly recognized voices belonging to Jesus and Brenda my friends and neighbors. BAM! Dah-VEED! I leapt out of bed; banishing thoughts of enjoying a cup of fresh brewed French roast coffee. I slipped into a pair of huaraches and hurried toward the screen door. Banging on the front door wasn't normal and I wondered what was up?

The young couple stood outside bracketing a brand-new Rubbermaid trash can; when I unlatched the screen door they hoisted the vessel and rushed by me into the kitchen. “Ven” (come) they encouraged. I followed them down the hall and into the kitchen. I stopped short -- the trash can was verily rocking back and forth on its own. They stood by beaming with excitement. I tiptoed across the concrete floor (not easy in huaraches) and peered into the can -- a pair of beady eyes glared back. “It's ... It's ... It's an…” A pair of voices instantly chimed in “¡Si! Es un armadillo”. The armor-plated creature started thrashing around again. I looked up; Brenda was flashing a sinister smile. Oh man, I thought, this thing probably senses that its fate doesn't include the possibility of becoming a mascota (pet).

With a triumphant shout they hoisted the can and rushed for the door. As they disappeared around a bend in the path Jesus shouted over his shoulder “Un Ratito" (A short while). Well, I thought, at least the unfortunate animal wasn't going to have to bear captivity for long. The second thought was grimmer -- the young couple knew that I'm not a vegetarian. Armadillo is considered to be a delicacy in Mexico. For many years I had been fortunate enough to avoid it but now I was well and truly trapped -- a week hadn't passed since the couple declared me as showing traditional Mexican enthusiasm for mole, chilies and tortillas. Ruefully I reached for the coffee bean grinder.

Epilog: They returned a couple of hours later bearing a large covered pot. To my surprise and great relief the armadillo had been reduced to a guisado a rich stew featuring thick and spicy tomato sauce. “Uuum, que rico" (how delicious), I lied -- they failed to notice that much of my mozo consisted of the sauce and lots of tortillas.

Later after the dishes had been washed and plans had been made for the main meal of the day (comida) I retreated onto the patio, eased myself into one of the large Yucatecan hammocks and stared out upon the incoming swells of the Pacific. A light breeze was blowing off the sea. Later, perhaps mañana Jesus and I would start in on routine maintenance of the three large bungalows while Brenda would busy herself with the linens and trastes (dishware). The winter tourist season was still a few months away, but time down here really moves along. Over on the sunny side of the patio a collection of potted roses were doing the natural thing for tropical plants to do in the summertime -- there were days where I measured their growth to be as much as an inch (per day!). I had potted them in a mixture of black river bottom mud and rich volcanic loam from the nearby Paricutin volcano. About once a month I will bury a fingerling baitfish in each pot and the roses have grown from six inches in height to near five feet -- in eight months!

Indeed, I should reveal the name of the facility: Flores de Las Peñas (Flowers of the sea pinnacles). A resort hotel? I should say not! There's no swimming pool or horseback riding or even a sauna. Heck there's no water heater or even glass in the windows. Two giant tinacas (cisterns) on the roof gravitates water when the village water is shut down (three days a week). As a concession however we do have indoor plumbing and as a further concession the toilets work well and they even have seats. For the discriminating the beds are considerably longer and wider than the beds you'll find in most two and three star facilities and the pillows are soft. Not many hotels have bedside reading lights but this is no ordinary hotel. The visitor will even find (gasp!) washcloths along with fluffy towels in the bathrooms. Could this mean that the facility should be labeled “Domesticated Rustic?”

The hotel is designed to cater to the knowledgeable and experienced Mexico traveler who remembers what things were like “In The Good Old Days” of the sixties and seventies. Better yet, some of the things that used to greatly annoy have been changed or altered for a more contemporary clientele. The kitchens have refrigerators. Overhead lights have bright bulbs. There are large stir fry pans, and blenders for making licuados. Next to useless ceiling fans have been replaced by more effective pedestal fans.

The village of Las Peñas is tiny, having two tiny tiendas, and no gasolinera. Burros are still a viable source of transportation and hauling, and campesinos regularly carry machetes. Everyone knows everyone else and if you trying speaking English, residents will beg "un momentito" while someone runs to get somebody who understands Ingles.

But you may as well cast all of those other amenities out to sea because the real wonder of Flores de Las Peñas is the breath taking view from the balustrade which spans eighty feet across the patio. The hotel is perched seventy feet above the Pacific on a low bluff. We can see miles out to sea or turn sideways and see for miles along a curving golden crescent palm-fringed beach. The famous pinnacles are right before you and they serve as a haven for piles of saucer-size Pacific oysters and armfuls of spiny lobster. I can truthfully brag that this place has the best view of any hotel on the Pacific coast of Mexico (and that's a lot of coastline).

Whales and dolphins cavort just offshore, giant rays spin out of the water and splat back down in a huge splash. Sailfish jump and spin with delight, and bait balls work their erratic way up and down the coast with Poseidon-like predator fish leaping into the air and almost getting smacked by diving pelicans. It's a performance that can entertain for hours. A real plus is that unlike resorts further north, the ocean here is always a comfortable tepid temperature and you won't be exchanging shorts and tee short for long johns and a sweater at sunset. There are no nearby lagoons and therefore few no-see-ums.

The nearest tortilleria is fifteen miles distant. The tortillas here are made by hand. When you saunter down to the beach Enramada restaurants the fish and seafood is fresh and local -- you'll see the fishermen's pangas pulled up on the beach. Except for a devoted following by locals from Morelia, and Uruapan, the enramadas are unknown to outsiders. One in particular Enramada Gonzales, serves up the best seafood that I have ever eaten in Mexico. For a number of years Carl and Lorena's compadre Steve Rogers, and I sought to out-do one another with an ultimate seafood quest seeking the ultimate Camarones al la Diabla. I can now truthfully shout out to sea “Steve I found them!”

Las Peñas is located on the very southern edge of the state of Michoacan. This means that it is located within the fabled rural or remote (unknown) zone of the Michoacan coast. To say the least it has not yet been “discovered” at least by foreigners. Located at the 20 kilometer mark on the main coastal highway 200, Las Peñas is about 14 miles “west” of Playa Azul and 19 miles east of the surfer's hangout Caleta de Campos. On a wider scale, we're ninety miles west of the Zihuatanejo international airport (the coastline here runs east and west rather than north and south), and a five hour bus ride down from Morelia (the buses end up at the nearby town of Lazaro Cardenas, from which a traveler can catch an intermediate local bus west to the junction village of La Mira. The same bus that serves Caleta de Campos also serves Las Peñas and La Mira. The highway bus stop is two hundred yards from the hotel (It's even on the corner of the correct street). The landscape in these parts is a mountainous lush jungle-like green, year-around.

Our bungalow rates are thriftier than those in so-called “discovered” beach hangouts. We have a lot of regular customers in the summer season and our rates have to be affordable for Mexicans -- Three hundred pesos per day with hefty weekly and monthly discounts. A pair of well-stocked tiendas helps a traveler to save on restaurant bills by cooking their own meals. Lazaro Cardenas has two giant super tiendas with everything from packaged New York steaks, to stacks of Anchor brand European-style butter from New Zealand. I even found Yucatecan cerveza Montejo in one of the stores a few days ago.

Speaking About Grocery Shopping

Here are a few random prices for grocery items that I ran across in the last week or two. I suggest that you grab a handful of soft tissues before you start reading because after doing so you may utter a loud exclamation and perhaps weep a little:

Packaged New York Steak $3.92 lb. Unbelievable! It's tender!
Blood red beefsteak tomatoes (big as oranges!) $1.02 lb.
Hass avocados $.69 lb.
Fresh spinach .29 lb.
Seedless watermelon .20 lb.
2 lbs. packaged frozen corn $1.55 (superb quality, imported from US)
Local mangos (Hayden) .18 lb.
Iceberg, romaine, leaf, or red lettuce .49 lb.
Fresh lobster $6.00 lb.
Gallo (Guatemalan) or Moose head (Canadian) beer $1.97 six-pack)
Anchor brand Butter (European-style) from New Zealand $1.60 8 oz.
Blackberries (fresh) $1.20 lb.
Dorado (Mahi-Mahi) filets $1.92 lb.
Fresh Limones .16 lb.
From a kiosk inside the Soriana hypermarket, fresh brewed espresso (grande) or cappuccino (grande) $2.00

Contact the Hotel

Email is the preferred method to contact us about general information or reservations. When reserving, we will send you the telephone number for our cell phone. Sadly Christmas 2006 is already booked solid. There are also four hookup RV parking sites that tariff for 150 pesos a day also with hefty weekly and monthly discounts. The nearest internet café is fourteen miles in the town of La Mira. Your email should be answered within seven days. Reservations are held until seven PM on the specified arrival date.

A website is in the works -- watch for it.

David Eidell

©1972-2008 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens